Khomeini Buried After Mourners Grab Body, Rip Shroud; Scores Crushed
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was buried today after frenzied mourners knocked his body to the ground and ripped his white burial shroud to pieces for mementos of the revolutionary who ruled Iran for 10 years.
Thousands of Revolutionary Guards and civilians pushed and shoved around the graveside, kicking up clouds of dust as Khomeini’s body was taken from a metal casket and lowered to the grave at 4:45 p.m.
″They are burying a sacred body,″ screamed a television announcer, his voice hoarse with emotion, as soldiers piled concrete blocks on top of the shrouded body.
″Oh, Father, don’t leave your children 3/8 Oh, father, don’t leave your beloved 3/8″ he wailed.
Khomeini, the driving force of Iran’s Islamic revolution, died Saturday at age 86.
Amid scenes of mass hysteria, the huge crowd surrounding the grave beat their heads with their hands in expressions of grief and threw dust on themselves to show they wanted to be buried with their spiritual patriarch.
Several people were knocked unconscious in crushes at the cemetery and earlier at Mosalla Mosque, where mourners stopped the nearly 10-hour funeral procession.
They blocked the path of a van driving the body to the cemetery, grabbed the corpse out of an open wooden coffin and ripped the shroud to pieces. The body fell to the ground.
In the chaos, Khomeini’s son was knocked down, but appeared uninjured.
State television later showed mourners grabbing the body and pulling the shroud, until the feet could be seen. The broadcast then was cut off abruptly for several minutes.
The body was rewrapped, placed in a closed metal casket and airlifted to the Baheshte Zahra cemetery, with mourners clinging to the helicopter’s landing sled until it was several feet off the ground.
Khomeini was buried next to Iranians who helped him seize power in the 1979 revolution that toppled a 2,500-year-old monarchy, and soldiers killed in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
There was no immediate word on whether people were killed or injured in the crowd that gathered in 91-degree heat. At least eight people were killed and hundreds hurt on Monday during a similar huge show of mass grief.
The chaos occurred when the grieving multitudes stopped the funeral procession a half-mile from the Mosalla Mosque, where Khomeini’s body had lain in state since Monday in an air-conditioned, glass-encased bier.
Two helicopters had landed nearby, and officials were moving the body from a hearse to a helicopter when the crowd pushed toward them.
Security forces fired in the air to disperse the crowds, but the throngs remained, IRNA reported.
Earlier, Khomeini’s son, Ahmad, 43, was knocked down outside the mosque. His black turban fell off as he was hoisted above the crowds and passed from hand to hand to an ambulance at the edge of the square. He appeared pale and shaken.
The hearse carrying the body was stranded in a sea of mourners clad in black, unable to move forward because of the crowds, IRNA said.
Shouts of ″Allah Akbar 3/8″ - God is Great - echoed across the city.
Many of Tehran’s 6 million people turned out to bid Khomeini farewell. Millions more converged on the city from other regions, the official media reported.
The procession began at 7 a.m. when Khomeini’s devout militants, the Revolutionary Guards, carried his body down from the bier.
Khomeini’s body lay on the ground in the open air as the white-bearded Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Golpaygani prayed. Golapaygani, one of the four remaining senior ayatollahs in Iran, lifted his spectacles to wipe tears with a handkerchief.
After the 30-minute service, Khomeini’s body was placed in a wooden coffin covered with a white cloth, then carried by Revolutionary Guards from hand to hand into a white van.
Crowds cried hysterically. Readings from the Koran, Islam’s holy book, blared from the mosque’s minaret as the masses cried: ″Farewell beloved imam 3/8″ and ″Oh Khomeini, why have you left us?″
In the chaos, women, clad in head-to-toe black chadors, were rubbing shoulders with men, defying an Islamic ban on physical contact between a woman and a man other than her husband.
Firefighters sprayed mourners with water to cool them off.
About 2 million frenzied mourners had kept a nightlong candle-lit vigil around the bier.
Some scratched their faces until the blood ran and threw ashes over their clothes.
Khomeini died of a heart attack 11 days after intestinal surgery without resolving the problem of who would succeed him. He left a 29-page ″political testament,″ excerpts of which were read over Tehran radio on Monday.
The excerpts made no reference to how Iran should be governed after his death. But such proposals may have been in sections not made public.
President Ali Khamenei, 49, was appointed caretaker leader Sunday. A presidential election and referendum on constitutional reforms, which are likely to increase the president’s executive power, are scheduled for Aug. 18.
Khamenei’s swift appointment was designed mainly to fill the vacuum amid political turmoil that has prevailed since Khomeini launched his resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in February with a call for the death of British novelist Salman Rushdie.
In the absence of a single personality who can match Khomeini’s religious and political authority, it seemed likely Iran would be ruled by a collective leadership.
Khamenei has endorsed the presidential candidacy of Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani, 55, a political ally and the only declared candidate.